Tribunal to hear Ryanair’s challenge to Aer Lingus ruling in February

Airline sets out six grounds for appeal

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary  pledged his company would go through every avenue of appeal

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary pledged his company would go through every avenue of appeal

 


Ryanair’s appeal against the UK Competition Commission (UKCC) ruling requiring it to cut its stake in Aer Lingus to 5 per cent from 29.8 per cent will go ahead in February.

In August, the commission ordered the airline to cut the stake in its rival following an 11-month investigation into its impact on competition between the two on routes between Britain and Ireland.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary immediately pledged his company would go through every avenue of appeal necessary to get the decision overturned.

The Competition Appeals Tribunal has agreed to hear the appeal over three days, February 12th to 14th next year, later than the December date some of those connected with the case expected.

The Irish company has outlined six grounds for its challenge. It believes first of all that the UKCC should have waited for a ruling on Ryanair’s appeal against the EU’s decision to block its takeover bid for Aer Lingus.

It argues that the commission does not have jurisdiction to order an Irish company “to do things or refrain from doing things outside of the UK”.

Ryanair accuses the commission of unfair procedures as it withheld evidence it relied on to show Ryanair’s stake has put off airlines from buying or merging with Aer Lingus.

It says that failure to show the stake in its rival caused a significant lessening of competition between the two, and that the claim is unreasonable and unsupported by the evidence. Finally, it argues that the order to divest 24.8 per cent and the appointment of a trustee to oversee this are disproportionate in light of Ryanair’s own undertakings to “effective but less intrusive” action to address the commission’s concerns.

The tribunal is likely to take several weeks to deliver a ruling. If Ryanair fails to convince it that the commission is wrong, it has the option of going to the British court of appeal.

There is debate about what would happen if the airline’s appeal to that court were to fail. It could go to Britain’s supreme court and from there to Europe. However, in August, both Alec Burnside of Aer Lingus’s legal advisers Cadwalader and Niall Collins, a partner at Dublin firm Mason Hayes and Curran, argued the Supreme Court could refuse to hear the case, cutting the prospect of any further litigation.